While many serious accidents occur on public roadways, a fair number occur in or near private parking lots.
Although the property is private, motorists still have a duty to operate their vehicles with caution, mindful of other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists who may be in the vicinity.
When parking lot accidents do occur, there may be numerous options for victims to recover financially. Of course, there may be a case against the negligent driver/ vehicle owner. But it may be worth exploring the design and maintenance of the parking lot itself. Property owners owe a duty of care to guests – especially business patrons – to design and maintain parking lots to ensure they are in reasonably safe condition for use.
If that is not the case, injured persons may consider a premises liability lawsuit against the property owner or management company. Even if the injury stemmed from an auto accident, a premises liability lawsuit would be appropriate because of the negligence in keeping the property reasonably hazard-free.
That does not mean, however, that these cases will be easy, especially in North Carolina, which bars recovery of damages in any case where a plaintiff is contributorily negligent.
In a recent North Carolina lawsuit against a fast food restaurant for the design and maintenance of its parking lot, this issue, plus the intervening negligence of a motorist, resulted in affirmation of a summary judgment for defendant.
The case, Blackmon v. Tri-Arc Food Systems, Inc., stemmed from the serious injury suffered by a truck driver on a side road just off the driveway of the restaurant.
According to court records, plaintiff was finishing his work shift and drove to a nearby Bojangles fast-food restaurant in Clayton off the highway shortly before 8 a.m. He was operating a 20-foot long truck, and decided not to park inside the parking lot because his vehicle would not fit in the allotted spaces (the parking lot was 19 feet wide). He parked on the side road, as he had done many times before. There were no signs indicating parking there was prohibited, and store manager and employees knew customers sometimes parked there.
He ate and when finished, walked outside to see someone had sideswiped the truck and caused damage. He went inside and retrieved a police officer, who had also been eating there. The officer came out and instructed plaintiff to stand at the rear of the truck while he filed the report.
While both were standing there, a woman driving a sport utility vehicle turned to enter defendant’s parking lot, along the roadway where plaintiff was parked. She was distracted by the police cars that had arrived, and then when she turned back in front of her, was blinded by the sun. She struck both plaintiff and the officer, pinning them to the back of the truck. Plaintiff suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized for months. His right leg was amputated, he lost vision in his left eye, his left leg was broken and he suffered pelvis fractures.
Driver was charged with reckless and careless driving.
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the fast-food establishment, alleging the accident would not have occurred had there been certain safety features, such as speed bumps, in the parking lot. He alleged defendant negligently failed to maintain the parking lot in a reasonably safe manner.
Defendant filed an answer raising numerous defenses, including assertion that plaintiff was contributorily negligent and the SUV driver’s intervening and superseding negligence – the sole cause of the crash – was not foreseeable.
Trial court granted defense motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed. The court concluded that even if defendant was negligent in its parking lot design, the negligence of the SUV driver was superseding and plaintiff’s choice to park in front of the restaurant, where traffic was allowed, constituted contributory negligence, barring his claim for recovery.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Blackmon v. Tri-Arc Food Systems, Inc., March 1, 2016, North Carolina Court of Appeals
More Blog Entries:
Martinez-Morales v. Martens – Parking Lot Accident Liability, March 1, 2016, Asheville Parking Lot Accident Lawyer Blog